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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Essential ClassificationVanda BroughtonFacet PublishingLondon2004vii plus 324 pp.ISBN 1-85604-514-5
Classification in Theory and PracticeSue BatleyChandos PublishingOxford2005xi plus 181 pages,ISBN 1-84334-083-6£39
A modern textbook on library classification has been anticipated by the LIS community ever since the excellent A New Manual of Classification by Marcella and Newton (1994) went out of print. Finally, and almost simultaneously, two books with very similar coverage and intention appeared, filling this void. Both books are designed as introductory texts to library classification aimed at teaching practice.
In Essential Classification Vanda Broughton approaches the subject of classification assuming that readers have no knowledge or may even be intimidated by the subject. Based on teaching experience and aimed at training, this book is written with classroom eloquence: clarity of explanations, a slow and steady pace of knowledge building, a good measure of repetitiveness and reminders. It is characterised by an abundance of examples, many of which were selected to hold the student’s attention and to entertain as well as instruct. The book contains a glossary (around 150 entries), a bibliography and a subject alphabetical index.
The book covers, in detail, the following three general classification systems: Library of Congress Classification (LCC), Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and Universal Decimal Classification (UDC). In addition to this is a separate and exceptionally thorough chapter on faceted classification, clearly indicating the area of the author’s expertise. Unrelated to classification, however, this book also contains chapters on word-based searching (without mentioning searching classification using words), two chapters on the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and one section on Cutter numbers, a system of call numbering.
The book content is presented in 21 chapters. The first 11 chapters are devoted to general questions of classification content analysis and controlled indexing languages. This first part of the book is extremely useful and will be equally appreciated by lecturers and students alike for a sensible, easy to follow introduction to classification. Readers may be more reserved when it comes to the chapters on controlled indexing languages and word-based searching which are slightly over-simplified and lack connection, in scope and established terminology, to the field of information retrieval.
Three classification systems in this book are presented in a parallel structure: general characteristics, history and management, structure, notation, and practical classification with exercises and solutions. The description of each system is exceptionally clear and balanced with a selection of the most important points. The differences between systems are explained clearly and referenced throughout the text. When reading the section on classification systems, one may wish that the same examples were used to demonstrate similarities and differences between the three systems (as in Taylor, 2004).
In the last chapter the author casually covers various topics: management of classification, editions of classification and users. But, probably because the author was concerned with keeping the content of the book to the “essentials”, as its title clearly suggests, this section does not cover contemporary classification topics.
Students and teachers seeking an explanation of traditional classification terminology will find the glossary at the end the very book useful. One should, however, be cautious with terms that are linked to information retrieval as these have somewhat unusual explanations unrelated to the established terminology in the field. Authority file is described as a “sum of all data in a specific field”; for recall it states that “it relates to relevance in inverse proportion”; natural language is “the language used in everyday speech and communication as contrasted with the artificial controlled language of indexing”, etc.
In summary it could be said that this book exhibits both accuracy and authority in the area of the theoretical background of classification systems and explains those characteristics of classification systems that would be equally relevant today as they were forty years ago. The book’s “teaching” narrative as well as frequent repeating and links back to previous chapters may render the book less appealing for LIS professionals and researchers who are seeking to refresh, extend or update their existing knowledge on a specific classification system. The intended audience may also be somewhat restricted by the author’s approach of assuming the use of classification in a traditional library setting with numerous references made to what may be one’s personal library experience. The first chapters explaining the nature of classification and especially the chapter on faceted classification may, to the contrary, be highly recommended to the widest audience.
Sue Batley’s book Classification in Theory and Practice is almost half the size and is less generous in its treatment of the selected topics. Similar to Broughton’s book, this book covers the three most used general classification systems in English speaking countries, in more detail: Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), Library of Congress Classification (LCC) and Universal Decimal Classification (UDC). In addition it gives a short overview of Colon Classification (CC), Bliss Bibliographic Classification (BC2) and discusses classification schemes for specialist collections. The author includes a chapter on the classification of electronic resources as an attempt to make this book more contemporary with respect to classification use.
The content is presented in five chapters. The first chapter briefly touches on general issues concerning library classification, explains the differences between enumerative and faceted schemes and gives the structural characteristics of library classification. The following two chapters are on general classification schemes which are grouped somewhat strangely into what the author thinks may be their application: general classifications for general use (DDC, LCC) and general classifications for special use (UDC, BC2, CC). It is rather unusual to categorise general classifications such as UDC, BC2 and CC as systems for special use, when they are normally used in public, academic and even school libraries worldwide.
The intention behind the coverage of the book is very much in line with an LIS school curriculum. The author’s focus on her own teaching practice rather than relevant resources, however, may have contributed to the apparent lack of accuracy, especially in the introductory chapter, e.g. the example of alphabetical ordering of subjects as an illustration for classification notation. The author has devoted significant space to the technicality of classification notation but this section seems to confuse the main characteristics of classification structure (faceted or enumerative) with their representation using a notational system (expressive/non-expressive). Contrary to the practice of all existing special and general classification schemes, the author states that expressive notation is particular to faceted classification and non-expressive to enumerative classification. This leads her to the wrong conclusion that brevity of notation is an advantage of enumerative schemes and long notation is a disadvantage of faceted schemes.
Comparing the advantages and disadvantages of systems may be a good way of helping readers to understand and memorise the characteristics of classifications. The author’s attempt to provide a comparative analysis between classification systems, however, is probably the weakest point of this book. In drawing parallels between classification schemes, the author confuses different categories of classification characteristics; for instance, those particular to a type of classification structure with those particular to a specific named system. The choice of criteria for what are stated as (dis)advantages is random, and while it appears to provide a comparison, the text fails to give information based on the same criterion across different systems. For instance, some advantages compared are as follows: DDC is “familiar” and “up to date”, while LCC has a “detailed list of subjects” with “excellent hospitality”, and UDC has “depth of classification”, “mnemonic qualities” and “flexibility”. The resulting description is both inaccurate and misleading. Many readers outside an educational setting may, however, find Batley’s book very appealing, because of its neutral narrative, good presentation, but most of all because of its brevity and simplification of otherwise complex issues.
A general lack of books on classifications raises one’s expectations with each new title. The two books described here are written from the teaching experience and for teaching practice and did not aspire beyond their original aim but it is hard to resist having greater expectations. For instance, one cannot but wish that there were more information on the use of classification in contemporary information systems. The following topics come to mind: tools (classification online tools, authority files and automatic classification based on existing schemes), indexing guidelines (local indexing policy with respect to then purpose and type of collection) and standards for use and exchange of classification data (authority control). Equally, both students and teachers alike would benefit from more information on the role of classification in cross-collection/cross-domain searching of printed, digital and hybrid collections, the use of classification in resource discovery metadata, the use of classification as a pivot, mapping to subject heading systems and thesauri or searching classification using words.
In conclusion, and from the point of view of overall content quality and usability, one has to admit that Broughton’s book offers greater value for money than Batley’s shorter and more expensive edition. The fact that there are now two introductory textbooks on classification to choose from is a great help to all who teach classification. We can only hope we will not have to wait for another decade to get a modern and more practice-oriented title on classification addressing some of the important issues in management and use of classification in an online and networked environment.
Aida Slavic London, UK
Marcella, R. and Newton, R. (1994), A New Manual of Classification, Gower, AldershotTaylor, A. (2004), Wynar’s Introduction to Cataloging and Classification, 9th ed., Library and Information Science Text Series, Libraries Unlimited, Westport, CT